‘Fundamental rights of underprivileged children should be protected and honoured’

Puja Marwaha, the chief executive officer of CRY (Children’s Rights and You), says it is necessary that all duty bearers for children promise India’s children a childhood which is not begging on streets

by Dipin Damodharan

When will children become a political priority, lamented Nobel laureate and child-rights crusader Kailash Satyarthi on November 20, 2016, in the backdrop of UN’s Universal Children’s Day. He is right on saying that unless and until children become a political priority, India will continue to be dogged by the evils of child labour and child trafficking.

Look at this statistics. The total number of Children in India is around 472 million; it is roughly 39% of the country’s total population. And, what about the attention they have been getting over the years? It doesn’t seem fair, and forced the activists to raise some alarming questions on the future of our children.

When the governments talk about development, we can’t find the issues related to the welfare of children on their priority list. This kind of a development model is highly infuriating and totally disturbing for a society that claims to be civilised .

The activists who are fighting for the rights of children seem to be heavily distressed with this trend. Puja Marwaha, the chief executive officer of CRY (Children’s Rights and You), thinks that the governments should ensure the fundamental rights of underprivileged children in India are protected and honoured.

Puja Marwaha, CEO, CRY

Puja Marwaha, CEO, CRY

“It is imperative for parents/guardians, teachers, community at large, school management committee, and the whole education structure to commit whole heartedly  in creating a learning environment conducive for every child to thrive and become a proud citizen transforming India’s political economy”

“It is necessary that all duty bearers for children promise India’s children a childhood which is not begging on streets, working in agricultural fields and construction sites but learning in a well-equipped classroom,’’ Puja says. Her organisation CRY, one of the most influential NGOs in the country, has been fighting for the cause of underprivileged children since 1979.

“It is imperative for parents/guardians, teachers, community at large, school management committee, and the whole education structure to commit whole heartedly  in creating a learning environment conducive for every child to thrive and become a proud citizen transforming India’s political economy,” she argues.

The main issues that need to be addressed in order to see a change in learning outcomes is recognizing the fact that learning starts from birth. In the earlier stages of life, there needs to be adequate attention paid to child health and nutrition, and providing appropriate stimulating environment to learn and develop.

Adequate investments need to be carried out for the age group of 0-6 years so that sound foundation is created before child enters formal schooling. At school level there needs to be investment carried out in making class room (physically and cognitively) stimulating. Greater investments are required for teacher training, bridging infrastructure gaps and appropriately invest in constructive methods for evaluating a child’s learning and monitoring children’s progress and promoting positive discipline.

Puja Marwaha believes that business houses can play a big role in transforming the lives of children.

“At CRY, we believe large corporate bodies in India have tremendous responsibility as well as capacity in bringing about change for children. They can partner with NGOs, who are experts in this area, help them expand their work, in strengthening education system, in reaching out to more children. Likewise, in stopping child labour, all corporations that depend on a local supply chain should be vigilant, proactive and more professional in dealing with supply chain matters. They should not engage with business where children are working in any level or tier of a supply chain, it should be seen as a serious issue.’’

Pooja is of the opinion that the proposed amendment to the Child Labour Act, 1986, is likely to leave the category of 14-18 years children more vulnerable to exploitation.  It allows children below the age of 14 to work in family enterprises and businesses.

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